If you are in the process of moving to the UK to live there, or to study or if you wish to invest money in the UK, you will naturally want to open an account there with a British bank. Unfortunately, many banks in that country will not open an account for you unless you can show them a valid address in the UK. This does not mean that you cannot open an account but the process can be difficult especially for nonresidents.
The problems facing nonresidents who wish to open a bank account in the UK arise from the complicated regulations that were introduced in 1993 to tackle the problem of money laundering. There are no explicit regulations prohibiting the local banks from doing business with customers who reside outside the UK but concerns about the additional cost of compliance and prevention of fraud result in many domestic banks being unwilling to provide banking services to nonresidents. This has been compounded by the necessity of using taxpayers’ money to bail out banks and the string of scandals involving some British banks. However, there are plenty of banks to choose from as well as building societies and the post office who also offer the full range of banking services. In addition, cities like London contained branches of many international banks.
Many major banks offer accounts and services specifically aimed at people who are new in the UK or intend to relocate in the short term. For instance, HSBC offers the Passport account intended for people who have moved in the past twelve months or intend to move in the next three months. You can apply for this account over the phone or online but, once you arrive in the UK, you need to produce one form of identification and proof of an address outside the UK which has been verified to activate your account. Barclays offers the same kind of services but accepts verified copies of these documents by post without the need for your physical presence.
If you are a student, many banks offer bank accounts for students with special features designed for their convenience. Students from outside the UK may find the process difficult to understand and should seek suitable guidance whenever possible. In brief, the documents required to be produced include a valid passport, proof of address and proof of student status which will typically be your UCL student ID card, or your Statement of Student Status which was produced at the time of enrolment. Make a point of checking with the bank where you wish to open your account to ensure that the documents that you possess are adequate. If you are an international student some banks may require an adapted version of the Statement of Student Status, which you can obtain from the Student Centre. Your home, contact and term-time addresses should be valid so that the proper information will appear on this document.